While the extra brain PC can’t play Chrysalis it could be a life changing treatment for those suffering from neurological disorders like Parkinson's disease.
According to the journal, Cells Report Physical Sciences, which we get for the “spot the braincell” competition, the boffins worked out how to charge the implants solely through breathing movements — potentially freeing them from the messy mechanics of charging an object inside a human body.
The onboard computer acts like a pacemaker and sends electrical pulses deep into the brain via embedded wires to help regulate brain activity, especially in areas that control motor functions.
This helps patients mitigate the tremors and stiffness associated with Parkinson's, and in recent years, it's also gained traction as a treatment for depression.
The method of battery charging will fix a massive problem with onboard PCs which is that they require surgery to get their batteries swapped out every 2-3 years, which is both costly and physically taxing.
Using the energy generated by breathing motions in a patient's chest gets past this problem as it uses triboelectric charging, in which static electricity is generated through friction.
A triboelectric nanogenerator is installed near the chest wall. Inhaling and exhaling causes the wall to rub against the generator, creating a current that charges a supercapacitor, which powers the brain stimulator.
Researcher Jim Rusling, a UConn chemist and coauthor of the new paper, in a press release that if someone already has a deep brain stimulator, we could just replace the battery with this generator without having to retrofit them with a wholly new device.
So far, the nanogenerator has been tested in the simulated chest of a pig which used a real pig lung. During the experiments, the nanogenerator was successfully powered by the pig lung's inhaling and exhaling. But the brain stimulator was hooked up to the brain of a mouse, not a pig.
The next step, the team says, is to test the self-sufficient system in large animals.